December’s Book To Live By

We have finally come to the close of 2020, a harsh and stressful year.

Daily-updated death tolls, steep political divisions, burdensome social distancing…. The list goes on and on.

It calls to mind the immortal words of Thomas Payne, written in 1776: “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

To help us deal with these trying times, for the December members-only podcast, I turned to a dear friend, Father Edward Beck, who is a Roman Catholic priest probably best known for his commentary on faith and religion for CNN.

He is also a best-selling author, and it is my great pleasure to announce that our December Book To Live By is:

Unlikely Ways Home: Real-Life Spiritual Detours by Edward L. Beck (*paid link).


This beautiful book reminds us that everyone is at the mercy of life events. Our control lies only with how we respond to them, and a well-tended spirit puts us in a position of strength.

Edward serves as a wonderful, observant storyteller sharing wide-ranging conversations with a dozen men and women who tell of painful experiences and the wisdom gained from them.

The individual stories are unique but familiar as the themes are universal, including addiction, death, infidelity, alienation, and sexuality.

You will gain insights into profound issues most of us grapple with: What does it mean to be “spiritual”? What role, if any, does institutional religion play in a spiritual journey? Is it ever too late to begin one?

Unlikely Ways Home (*paid link) paints pictures of inspiring journeys from darkness into light. They bring comfort and hope in these troubled days.

Wishing you a peaceful and bountiful 2021,


Debbie Signature

P.S. Every day at Women on Fire, we offer expert advice, useful strategies and woman-to-woman support. If you are not yet a member, please consider joining us today!


*As an Amazon Associate, Women on Fire earns from qualifying purchases.

What our women are “on fire” about!


Everyone is gone and I’m sitting in the quiet for a few minutes …and letting the fun of the weekend settle over me.

After Thanksgiving,  conversation continued with our family of close friends enjoying breakfast and each other’s company on Martha’s Vineyard. Clockwise from top: Ellen Wingard, Patricia Seeman, Lisa Arundale, Shannon McCaffery, Holly Getty, Robert Joerger, Rob Berkley and me! (Photo by Edward Beck)

I hope your holiday weekend was filled with love and connection. Mine sure was and I am deeply grateful for the “family” I am surrounded by even though none were my biological relatives.

I hope you, too, have in your life a circle of loved ones you can really count on and feel supported and uplifted by.

This week’s SPARK! is our monthly review of what our fabulous Women on Fire are up to. This is the place to share how you’re doing with your dreams; what is new in your life; or just an update for how things are going.

Congratulations to each one of you! It is thrilling to hear your news and to know how diligently you worked to get where you are:

Sarah Elizabeth with her mothers Connie Greer and Sue Dohner after their debut in BIO-HAZARD: A Relative Comedy in New York City.  (Photo by Holly Getty)

Sarah Elizabeth Greer of New York City launched her long-awaited, much anticipated play on Theater Row in New York City with a single performance and within days won the BEST COMEDY Award at the United Solo Festival!

Sarah writes:
“My goal was to write and perform a comedy about the hazard of being found by my biological mother, and call it BIO-HAZARD: A Relative Comedy — and then invite both of my mothers to join me onstage to help me perform it.

“So, I created a Kickstarter Campaign and with the generous help of our one and only dear Debbie and other incredible Women on Fire like the brilliant and hilarious Kacy Cook, who just happens to be one of the funniest women on the planet (and who also took a stab at editing one of the early incarnations of the play) — as well as the generosity of the extraordinarily talented Janina Sebesky and Regina Weichert, I raised $18,000 and entered my script into the International United Solo Festival, which is the largest solo festival in the world.

“There were several Women on Fire in the audience, all of whom I share such a deep connection.  My dear friend Linda Yellin (whose incredible sense of funny inspires me weekly) with her husband Randy Arthur, beautiful Holly Getty, Janina and Regina were all there to cheer us on!

“Five days later, I was informed that my play had won BEST COMEDY of the festival!”

Actress and best-selling author Christina Haag of New York City is starring in the film Half Brother, which begins shooting in December.

She is the author the beautifully written, New York Times’ best-selling book, Come To The Edge, a deeply touching memoir of her romantic relationship with the late John F. Kennedy, Jr.

You may have met Christina at a Women on Fire tea in New York. Or you may  recognize her from some of her guest starring roles on shows such as ER, Law and Order, Boston Public, Heroes, Providence, among others, and starring roles on the stage and in independent features.

Jordan Edelheit jumping for joy at her success of her TWO big dreams!

Jordan Edelheit of Columbus, Ohio attended the Women on Fire Day in Columbus last year along with 25 other Ohio State University students and a tea last Spring led by Jan Allen and was inspired to launch two dreams!

Jordan writes:
“There were two parts to my Women on Fire dream. One was my desire to work within the prison system and to help share the often untold stories of the incarcerated.

“The second was a road trip that I was planning on embarking on over the summer. The two following videos represent summaries of these very different dreams coming true!

“Here is the 90-second promo video of the TEDxMarionCorrectional event, an amazing compilation of footage from a single day’s event at the prison that was more powerful than almost anything else that I have attended.

“I was recently given the opportunity to talk about my project that I created this summer at TEDxYouth@Columbus. It turned out to be an experience that took place in seven weeks and in 8344 miles to seek out over 140 change-makers. Here is the link to my TEDx talk and my dreams coming true.”

Laurie Forster of Easton, Maryland will bring her comedy act to The City Winery in New York City on January 9, 2013.

And, you are invited!  Seats are limited and advance purchase is suggested. You also can view her videos here.

An original Woman on Fire and co-author of the Women on Fire book, Laurie is best known as The Wine Coach®. She said in a recent Women on Fire members’  interview that wine may be the vehicle but helping people to have fun in life is her real mission!


Beth Kloesener of Saginaw, Michigan will partner with Northwood University to provide career services for their adult degree and MBA students at campuses based in Michigan, Texas and Florida.

Laura Tiberi of Delaware, Ohio listened to her intuition about coming to the Women on Fire Retreat in Chicago and it was a good thing she stayed home!  Her grandson Parker Matthew was born on Oct. 28.

We missed you, Laura, but were glad you didn’t miss Parker’s birth! Congratulations to you and your family.

Dr. Robyn Silverman of Mount Freedom, New Jersey has been invited by Parenting Magazine to be a member of their 2013 “Dream Team” Expert Editorial Advisory Board.

An author, speaker, coach and educator, Dr. Robyn will be called upon by the magazine to share her expertise about parenting, child development, body image and character education.

She frequently discusses these issues as a guest expert on NBC’s Today Show.


Just in time for holiday gift-giving to the little ones in your family, Rosi Amador of Cambridge, Massachusetts and her family have narrated and composed music for two new bilingual children’s audiobooks.

Congratulations, everyone.  It is inspiring to see the dreams of women in our community coming true!

Wishing you a great week ahead and I hope you make progress on something important to you in your life this week.

I’m about to dive into a 21-day cleanse to end the year in even better shape than I began it.  I start it tomorrow with the talented, holistic health coach Amy Marzluff.

Wish me luck and feel free to comment on the Women on Fire success stories above or your own experience with a cleanse by commenting here!

No talking!

My husband calls me a “professional talker.”

And my mother underscores the notion of my talkative nature with her own story.

When I was five months old she peeked into my room and from my crib I looked up at her and said, “Hi!”  She claims she almost fainted to hear her baby talk and that was only the start.

By the time I was 12 months old, I spoke in sentences.  And, when I was 7, she and my Dad bribed me with offers of 50 cents an hour for my silence.  I don’t remember making any money;-)

So you might be surprised that the most exciting dream for me this summer was to go on a “silent retreat” down this path you see above. No talking, no schedule, no plans.  Three whole days to myself in silence.

Have you ever done that? Or wanted to?

My year had been so full – happily so – yet nonstop with activity and  — talking — that’s when the idea of time alone to myself in silence came to me.

Close friends Edward Beck and Nancy Neal had shared fascinating experiences with me about silent retreats they had taken in California and Colorado.

Sadly, I realized I was too tired to travel to another location to get the rest and quiet I needed and wanted.

That’s when Woman on Fire Lisa Umberger Arundale stepped in and generously offered me her beautiful home in the woods, only a few miles away from my own home.

So I packed a three-day supply of clothes and food, kissed my husband and our cat, and without a computer or iPad, off I went to my destination — a 10-minute drive to my wooded nirvana.

Here is what happened and what I learned in those three days — and why I recommend even a day-long silent retreat to re-energize your life.

When I finally stopped running, stopped being busy, stopped talking, unexpected feelings came up.

I wasn’t particularly happy or joyful on Days 1 and 2 of my silent retreat.  Thoughts of my father who died 8 years ago bubbled up and I realized I hadn’t fully “leaned into the grief” of his loss. So I cried and just went with it.

I woke up and went to bed with the sun.

Each day I took a two-hour nap.

I ate granola, yogurt and fruit for breakfast — and on two nights for dinner.

I read and prayed and stretched and soaked in Lisa’s giant bathtub.

I sat outdoors and marveled at the hibicuses and hydrangeas. (And, took this picture so you could see how pretty it all was in the glow of nightfall.)

On Day 3, I started my morning by writing a gratitude list in my journal.  And then in less than an hour I wrote a plan — no, the plan wrote itself! — for what I want to accomplish this next year.  No struggle.  No questioning.  It just flowed.

The transformation between Day 2 and 3 astounded me.  Being in silence had  worked for me to regain a sense of peace and clarity!

The surprising thing was that I didn’t miss talking.  In fact, I didn’t even think about it.  When the three days were over, I was ready to go home.

I felt refreshed, re-invigorated and much clearer than when I arrived in the woods.

As I bundled up my belongings and straightened up the house to leave, I noticed three perfect words to describe my retreat were printed on Lisa’s side table.

And, I broke my silence with a big laugh.

As summer closes in…a feast

Is your summer starting to wind down?

We live in the mecca of summer vacationers – Martha’s Vineyard.  The head count here right now is about 115,000 people when normally the population is roughly 15,000.

(It used to worry me that we could sink into the ocean in summers but I’ve been assured we won’t!)

So even though our island is bursting to the shores with visitors, in only another week or two, everyone will go home and back to school and all will become quiet again on the home front.

Until then, my husband Rob and I are soaking up these last summer days with close friends, including visiting and local Women on Fire and Vision Day guests.

Women on Fire at breakfast this weekend on Martha’s Vineyard! From left:  Jamie Eslinger, Suzi Schadle, Michelle Whittaker, me! and Lisa Umberger Arundale. (Photo by Zan Schmidt)

One of this past week’s many highlights was Women on Fire member Phoebe Lapine coming over and preparing the most elegant, delicious lunch to celebrate the summer.

Phoebe with her luscious creation!

Phoebe is based in New York City and is a cookbook author, food writer and private chef and we love her – and I love sharing her talent in our Women on Fire community!

Check out her blog at Feed Me Phoebe.

She made a Salmon Cobb Salad and we paired it with a twist on another Woman on Fire Debi Lilly’s refreshing summer drink recipe – Watermelon Mint Muddles.

Phoebe and I say cheers to the Muddle! Thank you, Debi Lilly.

I am always on the lookout for entertaining tips and food ideas that are healthy, easy, beautiful and FUN. (Phoebe certainly hit every one of those buttons with her Salmon Cobb Salad… and she even did the grocery shopping! Thank you, Phoebe.)

Phoebe preparing lunch. (Photos by Rob Berkley)

I’m pretty sure after watching Phoebe I can duplicate this gorgeous salad. And, if I can, you certainly can, too!

Here are the ingredients for Phoebe’s Salmon Cobb Salad:

Grilled wild salmon, salad greens, purple basil, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocadoes, fresh corn raw sliced off the cob, crispy bacon.

Simple and elegant — one dish shared among six guests.

In addition to Phoebe using fresh and organic ingredients, what truly made this salad outstanding was Phoebe’s yummy Creamy Dill Dressing drizzled over the greens and the salmon.

Creamy Dill Dressing (from Phoebe’s blog)
Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves
8 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 garlic clove
1 small shallot
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a small food processor, combine all the ingredients and pulse until finely chopped. Add 2 tablespoons water and puree until the mixture is very smooth. Depending on the consistency you like your creamy dressing, add more water to thin it out.

Summer fun with dear friends — Jamie Eslinger, Phoebe Lapine, Robert Joerger, Edward Beck, Rob and me. Hope you will visit us when you come to Martha’s Vineyard! You never know who you might meet here:-)

Watermelon Mint Muddle

Adaptation from Debi Lilly’s recipe in her book A Perfect Event: Inspired, Easy Elegance for Every Occasion

In a tall glass, fill bottom with watermelon and several sprigs of fresh mint; “muddle” together (I use a wooden spoon).

Then fill with ice; sparkling water (or sparkling wine such as Prosecco). When I use sparkling water, I add a splash of lemonade to give it even more pizzazz!


Phoebe’s masterpiece!

I look forward to seeing a number of you here on Martha’s Vineyard next Friday when RoseMarie Terenzio will read from her best-selling book Fairy Tale Interrupted.  She will discuss her life as John F. Kennedy Jr.’s personal assistant for the last five years of his life and how experiencing that and many other losses has informed her life today.

Rose was the featured interview on the Women on Fire members’ CD a few months ago. I’m so excited many of you will get to meet her as well as other Women on Fire attending!

Have a terrific week. I can’t wait to share lots of inspiring opportunities happening this fall for you!

7 Ways My Eyes Were Opened

I am stuffed – and writing to you from New York City after finishing the yummiest brunch at Nice Matin, one of my favorite restaurants.

Edward Beck Debbie Phillips Holly Getty and Ellen Wingard
My uplifting and treasured friends Ellen Wingard, Edward Beck and Holly Getty. (Thank you, random person on street who took this wonderful photo!)

When I am surrounded with supportive friends who make me feel loved and cherished like Edward, Ellen and Holly, I believe I can go out into the world and do anything.

Who in your life makes you feel this way?  Whoever cheers you on and helps you move forward, I hope you have a date on your calendar to spend time with them!

I am in New York City because I was invited to attend the 3rd Annual Women in the World Summit, hosted by Newsweek/Daily Beast  Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown.

The summit was a convergence of 2,600 women from around the world and a showcase for some of the world’s most dazzling women change-agents – Meryl Streep, Hillary Clinton, Leymah Gbowee, Gloria Steinem, Angelina Jolie, Sheryl Sandberg, Christiane Amanpour, Sheryl WuDunn and many, many more.

After three days of immersion into the hopes, dreams, conditions and status of women and girls worldwide, I so wish I could give each woman who presented her due.

Instead, I will share the 7 Things That Opened My Eyes.  These were awarenesses that inspire me to want to be part of the solution for a better world.  In some instances, I’m not sure exactly how to help so I will take our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call to action as a roadmap.

“What does it mean to be a woman in the world?” she asked. “It means never giving up. It means getting up, working hard, and putting a country or a community on your back.”

There are many terrible things going on in the world that affect women.  The conference was not about politics, not about women vs. men, not about casting blame.  But rather how can we all join forces — no matter age, religion, political party, nationality — and find solutions.

This was, however, a call to action for women to use our gifts and talents, many unique to our gender, and help to solve our world’s problems.

Here are some topics that opened my eyes:

1) Child marriage is a horrific, pervasive problem in this world – and even in our own country.  25,000 girls under the age of 18 get married globally each and every day, some of them as young as 8 and 9.

In the United States, it is legal (with parental or court permission) to get married at age 12 in West Virginia and age 14 in New Hampshire.   Girls who marry at these tender ages face cascades of lifetime issues from lack of education and health to abuse and poverty.  Laws, customs and family traditions must be changed.

2) Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, at age 74, is an outspoken and powerful advocate for women.  Addressing the Summit, she made no bones about her opinions:  To people who say, “there are not enough qualified women (for elected office and top-level positions), that’s one of the biggest bullshit things I’ve ever heard!”

And, she will always hold a special place in my heart for her most famous quote: “I think there should be a special place in Hell for women who don’t support other women.”   You go, Madam Secretary!

3) Women are exquisitely and uniquely qualified to lead the world’s police and security forces. They bring different and needed gifts to this profession, which is increasingly more and more complex locally, nationally and globally.

Women are “lionesses” when it comes to protecting their families and communities,  innate skills and instincts for creating secure environments, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano pointed out.

Case in point: Washington DC’s Chief of Police Cathy Lanier, a single mother who entered law enforcement to make a better life for her son, is now celebrated for significantly reducing violent crimes in that city.  It has occurred because of her commitment to communication and outreach into the community.

4) “Women are too politely angry,” warned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee, in discussing the power of women in conflict zones to replicate her success in toppling a corrupt government and violence in Liberia.  Pray The Devil Back To Hell is a stunning documentary (and one of my all-time top movies) detailing how women joined forces and conquered the violence in their country.

5) Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman, two 20-something entrepreneurs shared their invention “SOccket Rockets.”  The device brings electricity to impoverished communities around the world and works when kids kick a soccer ball! One out of 5 people in the world don’t have power.  30 minutes of play gives 3 hours of power!

6) Former presidential daughters Chelsea Clinton and Barbara Bush, in separate forums, championed new generations of change-agents.

Barbara highlighted astounding success of her Global Health Corps.  What Teach America has done for education, Global Health Corps is doing to solve health issues and enlisting an entire generation of young people in making it happen.

Chelsea celebrated The Digital Lives of Girls and highlighted innovative young women who are harnessing technology to prevent bullying, to develop self-esteem and supportive communities for leveraging issues that are important to them.  Inspiring to see how Barbara and Chelsea contribute to the world.

7)  Women can change the world. Not that I did not know this going into the Summit.  Walking out, I know it for sure and am ready to take more of the need “on my back,” as Hillary would ask.

And, as she put it so beautifully, ““Women with help from their friends can make a difference.” She urged us to be  “fearless, committed and audacious.”  And, then she sent all 2,600 of us out into the world to make that difference:

“So let’s go for it, and make it happen!”

As we move forward into the next months, I will be asking your opinion for ways that Women on Fire join forces with other women in the world to bring about change, healing and peace to all.

Until then, is there a situation that you want to correct in your life, in your community, in this country or in the world?

You are only one step away from making a difference.

Have an absolutely wonderful week and keep me posted on how you want to make a difference in any aspect of your — and our world.


The gift of tears

Two of my dearest friends in the whole world happen to be Roman Catholic priests.

They were here on Martha’s Vineyard last week visiting and leading a three-day retreat that I attended.

And while they were here, they made me cry.

My beloved friends Edward Beck and Robert Joerger are fountains of inspiration, strategies and support in my life. Who is like that in your life?

I didn’t cry in that wrenching my-heart-is-totally-broken way.  Rather, I cried in that healing and inspiring tears-are-to-the-soul-what-soap-is-to-the-body way.

All I did was sit in the energy and love of so many open-hearted souls coming together at the retreat (I’m not even a Catholic, by the way) and listen to the stories and wisdom my dear priest friends shared.  And the tears just flowed.  In that what-a-relief-to-stop-and-be-connected-to-humanity way.

Fathers Edward Beck and Robert Joerger belong to the Passionists order of priests (and you’ve likely seen Edward on his many regular television appearances from Good Morning America to The Joy Behar Show).  Together, they set the tone of these retreats as welcoming, embracing respites from daily life.

Fathers Robert and Edward are two important men in my life who’ve cheered on Women on Fire and even inspired some of you to join us!

I want to share with you some of the wisdom that touched me and, in particular, from last week’s retreat Edward’s

5 Spiritual Truths To Center Us

1)  Life is hard. We can’t escape that. What are you doing to make yours easier? To be more connected?

2) You are going to die. Do you live in a way that is conscious of your mortality?  Or do you live in denial?  We waste a lot of experiences because we fail to notice how precious life is. When we appreciate our mortality, we live from a different place and realize what a gift our life is.

3) You are not that important. Most of us are addicted to the “drug” of approval.  Cultivate awareness. Live from your own intention.

4) You are not in control.  (Need I say more about that? 😉

5) Your life is not about you. It’s about sharing your gifts with everyone and everything else. You are the vehicle so others can live more fully. When you make a difference for that one, it changes life for you and all of us.

Pure and simple, no matter your religion or beliefs, it becomes a deeply spiritual life when you practice what you preach.

For me last week, it felt good to remember that.  So good that I cried.

When was the last time you experienced the gift of tears? Pure, sweet, life- affirming, soul-cleansing tears…

Please share your own story in the comments section below. I’d love to hear.